Is Human Saliva Toxic To Birds?

While human saliva lacks any bird-specific toxins, it is teeming with microbes including gram-negative bacteria that are absent in most avian species.

Consequently, exposure to human saliva poses a risk of infection to any bird in question.

Or say,

Human saliva is potentially toxic to birds.

That said, small amounts of human saliva have been reported harmless in most cases.

I presume that the query originated with a pet bird, say a budgie, getting exposed to your saliva.

And so, you may be wondering:

Is Human Saliva Harmful To Budgies?

It is, but the extent of harm depends on the amount of saliva as well as its contents.

Now, humans and budgies are two entirely unrelated species that evolved separately.

Therefore, the two differ from each other in their habitats, foraging habits, and modes of movement to parenting as well as mating preferences.

Consequently, budgies may not have tolerance for human bodily fluids or vice versa. 

The exchange of saliva between humans & budgies is not only unnatural but also unhygienic.

However, there are no research studies currently available that specifically outline the harmful effects of human saliva on budgie health. 

And so, the only appropriate way to analyze the impact of human saliva on a bird is by skimming through individual salivary contents and their individual potential hazards. 

I present one such humble attempt through the following table:

Salivary Contents Sub-Type/ Detail Typical Action Potential Impact on Bird


Sodium, Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Bicarbonate, Chloride, Phosphate & Iodine. Promote enzymatic action, anti-bacterial activity, stabilization & buffering. Too diluted to be harmful to birds.
Mucus Mucopolysaccharides and glycoproteins Lubrication Seems harmless.
Enzymes Amylase, Lingual Lipases, etc. Mainly digestion. Unknown effects as human salivary enzymes differ from those of birds.
Anti-bacterial Agents Compounds e.g. Thiocyanate

Hydrogen Peroxide

Immunoglobulin A.

Enzymes e.g. Lysozyme, Lactoferrin, Lactoperoxidases,

Immunoglobulin A.

Protect the human body from potential bacterial infections. Likely harmless, but no extensive data is available.
Proteins Proline-Rich Proteins Anti-microbial activity, Enamel formation, Lubrication. Probably, harmless.
Cells 8 million human cells including White Blood Cells and Epithelial Cells Immunity + Cell Debris that keeps on detaching from the oral cavity. Seem Harmless.

(roughly 500 million per ml).

Resident + Invading cells. Potentially Harmful 

as gram-negative bacteria are absent in most birds.

Viral Agents Present in Saliva of Infected individuals. May spread the infection to others. Typically, Harmful.
Water 98-99% of saliva is water. Solvent, Lubrication, Supports enzymatic activity. Harmless.

Though this table shows the contents of human saliva that may be potentially harmful to a bird, the table does not show if an individual person’s spit will cause harm to a particular budgie.


Because each human individual has a different set of bacteria residing in his mouth.

You see, despite sharing a species, we all have a unique DNA as well as lifestyles.

Consequently, our oral cavities have distinct atmospheres that harbor different kinds of microbes.

For instance, some of us may have Enterobacter in our saliva, but some may only have E. Coli.

So, you may wonder:

How to Tell if Saliva of an Individual is Harmful to a Particular Budgie?

Such evaluations will involve considering the following factors (See Figure 1):

Figure 1: Representing the factors determining the effects of Human Saliva on a Bird.

The following table highlights how each of these factors may decide the extent of health damage by human saliva to a bird:

Parameter Details/Remarks
Amount of Saliva Miniscule amounts of saliva are likely to have no impacts.
Exposure Point Bird consuming saliva through its beak is at more risk than a bird getting saliva on its wings/skin.
The specie of the Bird Larger and wild species are less prone to infections compared to domestic parrots and small songbirds.
Immune System of the Birds A healthy adult bird is far less prone to infection from saliva compared to hatchlings or old birds.
Types of Bacteria in Saliva  Most harmful gram-negative bacteria from human saliva include Enterobacter, E. coli, Proteus, Klebsiella, & Pseudomonas.
Dietary habits of Birds Birds living on a fresh & balanced diet don’t go through many infections.

In practical life, a bird getting exposed to a few bits of saliva is not much concerning.

However, if your bird has any open wounds or scratches, then even bits of saliva may result in a serious illness.

So, I advise you to rush to a vet if you observe any unusual changes in your bird, including

  1. Fluffed-up feathers.
  2. Unusual nasal discharge or poop.
  3. Inactivity or lethargy.
  4. Fishy smell.

The vet will take cultures from your bird and perform Gram Staining – a regular lab procedure to test for the presence of gram-negative bacteria.

Then, he will prescribe appropriate antibiotics or remedies for the budgie in question.

That said, human saliva is not much different from other mammals. 

Is Mammal Saliva Toxic To Birds?

Certainly, yes.

You see, just like humans, most mammals have gram-negative bacteria in their oral cavities.

Consequently, their saliva poses similar kinds of threats to the bird.

Surely, as an omnivore, a human’s saliva is more lethal to a bird than other mammals’ saliva.


Wild mammals tend to take their mouths to all kinds of odd places. And so, their saliva may harbor more lethal pathogens than humans.

For instance, Cat saliva is often contaminated with Pasteruella – a Gram-negative bacteria that can cause disease in both birds and humans.

Common symptoms include

  1. Fever
  2. Nasal Discharge
  3. Difficult Respiration
  4. Hyperventilation 
  5. Worst-case scenarios – Death

Dog Saliva is usually less infectious than cats.

But they sometimes transmit the following pathogens through their saliva:

  1. Salmonella (causing diarrhea)
  2. West Nile Virus
  3. Candida (Transferring spores to birds)
  4. Capnocytophaga canimorsus

Still, these animals pose more threat through their claws than their saliva, by either directly wounding the bird or infecting it with pathogens through scratches.

In some cases, the exposed bird may end up ingesting infectious substances while preening itself. 

Pet birds eating alongside domestic Cats & Dogs is not an endearing sight, but a horrible one.

Not only do animals eating through one utensil share saliva, but they may also end up pouncing and hurting each other. 

However, saliva exchange is not the only way one can potentially harm one’s bird.


Can a Bird Get Sick From Humans?

Well, a human can expose a bird to a number of diseases including

  1. Pacheo disease 
  2. Proventicular Dilatation Disease (PDD)
  3. Chlamydiosis (Psittacosis)
  4. Psittacine Beak Feather Disease 

Now, most of these can be prevented by maintaining a clean cage, and regular changes of food and water.

However, a human suffering from flu or related disease can also expose the bird to the following:

  1. Sinuses and lung Infections.
  2. Throat infection.
  3. Air sac inflammation.
  4. Gastrointestinal infections.

Typically, such infections only spread when a bird gets too close to the infected human’s face.

That said, a bird can also cause infection in humans. 

For instance, Parrot Fever or Psittacosis is a bacterial disease caused in humans by Chlamydia psittaci that normally only infects parrots.

The disease is characterized by chills, frequent headaches, fever, muscle spasms, coughing, and, in some cases, severe pneumonia.

Ironically, all of this can be prevented by simply washing hands before and after handling the birds.

However, you may have already crossed all kinds of barriers between you and your bird.

In that case, you may be wondering:

Can I Kiss My bird?

You can but I suggest you rather don’t.

Now, I do realize that you and your avian companion have a strong bond.

Maybe pecking your bird is your way to express your love.

Perhaps, your bird even tries to feed you out of affection or nibbles at your lips.

However, you kissing your bird may risk both your and your bird’s health.

So, I’ll remind you that you are the one responsible for that bird’s care and pecking is not the way to do it.

Also, there are many other ways to express love, must yours be Toxic?

Even dry kisses on a bird’s back may harbor some risk. 

Besides, after two years of staying locked in your castle for COVID-19, I am sure you will agree that we shouldn’t breach nature’s boundaries.

So, I recommend cuddling and petting your bird, instead of pecking on the beak.

In case you were looking for some specific guidance, I am enlisting the queries that I have frequently come across:

Query Suggestion
I have been kissing my bird and feeding it through my mouth for years, but nothing bad has happened.  Well, nothing has happened yet.

There are no guarantees for the future so, I recommend you abstain from all such practices. 

My bird accidentally got a small amount of saliva from me, 

Will it be okay if I wash my bird?

Normally, a small amount of Saliva is not lethal for birds. However, you giving the bird a soapy warm bath may be lethal, so don’t panic and wait it out.

Use a dry towel if you must, but if you are still uncomfortable, see a vet.

My pets are my family, we eat together and share food. Eating with the same utensils will exchange saliva, so it is dangerous for all your pets.

Besides, what’s your plan if your cat suddenly decides to eat your budgie? 

So, eat in separate containers, and eat healthily.

My budgie only eats food softened by my mouth/seeds cracked by my teeth. If grinders are not your thing, I recommend soaking the food in water to soften it.

If the bird persists in this behavior, see a vet immediately.

My friends and I host bird-club activities where we all share food and cages. Such club activities are fun indeed.

But one infected bird is enough to make all other birds sick. So, I recommend against it.

My budgie often snatches food from my mouth. Trying eating only when the bird is caged. 
I cannot imagine not kissing my bird for a single day, it loves me so much. While that’s cute, it’s also unhygienic and well, kinda selfish. 

Love is supposed to be liberating and not suffocating and in this case, infecting.

So, try distracting the bird with a treat or a  toy.

My bird’s behavior/poop/discharge has changed after eating through my plate. Immediately Rush to the vet.

Wrapping Up

Mammalian Saliva including human saliva may contain pathogens, especially gram-negative bacteria that are not present in avian species.

Therefore, human saliva may be toxic for birds.

However, humans can also make birds sick through other means.

I suggest you don’t kiss your bird.

We at write about bird health and diet however it should not be taken as medical advice. For advice on your bird you need to seek out an avian vet. The information you find on is for educational purposes only. At we are not liable for any information that you may find on here. Birdcageshere is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice about your bird.